Numbers Game 2010

Red Wings Central has published Detroit’s training camp roster, meaning I moved too slowly getting my annual sweater number predictions made. It turns out I was right on a couple of my unpublished guesses and wrong on some others.

Mike Modano, as widely-reported, will wear #90 rather than switching to #89 with his usual #9 unavailable.

Free agent signee Ruslan Salei will keep his usual #24, inheriting it from Brad May.

Jiri Hudler will be making no change upon his return from the KHL, picking up the #26 he left behind a year ago.

This will not be the year that Justin Abdelkader takes the #87 he reportedly asked for last year. He’s back with #8.

Like Derek Meech and Kyle Quincey before him, Jakub Kindl is changing his number for his full-time jump to the big club. The #5 he wore in Grand Rapids is – of course – in use with the Red Wings so he’s switching from #46 to #4. This was one of my predictions.

Griffin Tomas Tatar has a somewhat expected switch. With his star rising in the organization, his jersey number drops from #72 to #21. I had expected him to get the #27 he wore last season in Grand Rapids. That number went to Travis Ehrhardt, who previously wore #45.

Given his status as a high-risk, high-reward European free agent signing, I’d expected Ilari Filppula to get the cursed #21 of Igor Grigorenko and Ville Leino. He gets neither that nor the #81 he wore in Finland, instead taking his brother’s original #41.

Rookie Brendan Smith will make his first appearance at Detroit’s camp wearing the #2 formerly belonging to Jiri Fischer.

Making their second runs with the Red Wings, Joey MacDonald returns to his #31 while try-out Aaron Downey will wear #32 with his previous #20 and #44 now taken.

The following are the remaining number changes for Red Wings prospects:

Mitchell Callahan, from #73 to #65
Jan Mursak, from #39
Andrej Nestrasil, from #56 to #49
Brent Raedeke, from #62 to #47
Jamie Tardif, from #67 to #29
Gleason Fornier, from #54 to #67
Brian Lashoff, from #49 to #25
Sebastian Piche, from #58 to #54
Logan Pyett, from #60 to #22

Red Wings Sign May, Send Abdelkader to Griffins

The Detroit Red Wings announced on Thursday that they have signed forward Brad May to a one-year contract. Financial terms were not announced but TSN of Canada reports the deal is worth $500,000.

With the signing, Justin Abdelkader was assigned to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Abdelkader had played in both of the Wings’ season-opening games in Sweden. He was expected to be sent to Grand Rapids when Darren Helm returned from a shoulder injury.

May failed to latch on with a team over the summer and was extended a pro tryout by the Red Wings late in the exhibition season. He was released from the tryout when the Wings went to Sweden and signed a second tryout with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

At the time, rumors circulated theorizing that Detroit might sign him to a two-way deal that would see him spending most of the season in Grand Rapids. Aaron Downey filled a similar roll between the Red Wings and Griffins last season.

May has split 1,001 career games between the Buffalo Sabres, Vancouver Canucks, Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks and Toronto Maple Leafs. He has 127 goals, 160 assists and 2,182 penalty minutes.

Numbers Game Preview 2009

As I mentioned last year, I look forward to training camp not because it marks the start of the start of the season but because I’m a sweater numberphile and as camp rosters are released we see what players are switching numbers.

So far no news is out from the Wings camp but there are five regular players I’m keeping an eye on this season and a handful of likely Griffins, as well as one rumor.

I expected Darren Helm to switch from the #43 he’s worn for his entire Detroit career last year and I still think that’s an option this year. The #15 he’s worn in Grand Rapids is currently available and the #14 he wore in Medicine Hat of the WHL could become available if the Red Wings move Derek Meech to clear up their logjam on the blueline.

Assuming Helm doesn’t take #15, it seems a natural fit for depth defenseman Andy Delmore, who wore that number in his 2005 training camp stint with the Wings. His preferred number is #5, which no player other than Nicklas Lidstrom will ever wear again with Detroit. He wore Niklas Kronwall‘s #55 while playing in Germany for the Hamburg Freezers for the last two seasons, #5 having been unavailable.

Now that he’s assured a spot in Detroit, Ville Leino may look to move to a familiar number. He wore #89 with Jokerit and the Wings organization has never had a problem giving out high numbers, so that switch is possible.

Jonathan Ericsson will likely stay with his #52 as he’s had the opportunity to switch in the past without doing so. He reportedly was told by teammates that a big guy like him needed a big number. The #4 he wore last season in Grand Rapids is available, though, so it’s an option for him to switch to.

Jason Williams has returned to Detroit and it’s likely he’ll go back to the #29 he wore during his first stint as well as while he was in Chicago and Columbus. The #14 he wore in Atlanta could be available if Meech is moved but Helm could also be interested in it.

Patrick Eaves seems set to go with the #44 he’s worn in Ottawa and Carolina, now available with the departure of Aaron Downey. He wore the unavailable #9 at Boston College and #7 with the Binghamton Senators so he may have no attachment to #44 and could switch to something else.

That switch might be needed if the rumors of Todd Bertuzzi coming back to the Wings are true. Bertuzzi has worn #44 for most of his career, including his first stint with Detroit, but has worn #4 and #7 since then.

Doug Janik has worn #3 for most of his career but isn’t likely to take it from the injured Andreas Lilja. His fall-back #33 is also taken, as it was when he wore #21 for the Montreal Canadiens. If Leino changes, Janik could go with that number. Similarly, if Helm makes a switch we could see Janik go with the #43 he wore with the Hamilton Bulldogs. The #11 he wore with the Rockford IceHogs is unavailble.

Last on my watch list is Justin Abdelkader, who is unlikely to change from the #8 he inherited from Matt Ellis in 2008. He has previously said that he doesn’t worry about the number he wears but did choose #19 in Grand Rapids in honor of Steve Yzerman. He wore #89 in high school at Mona Shores so he could take that if Leino doesn’t. The #9 he wore in Cedar Rapids and for two years at Michigan State is, of course, unavailable, as is the #18 he wore for his freshman year at MSU.

The Red Wings’ official web site is, as per usual, no help. It has traditionally been late to add updated sweater numbers and currently lists Williams, Eaves, Delmore and Janik without numbers.

Abdelkader Replaces Kopecky in Game Five Lineup

Early news on Sunday’s Game Five… Justin Abdelkader will replace Tomas Kopecky in the Detroit lineup.

Kopecky is out after taking a hard punch in his fight with Anaheim’s Francois Beauchemin in Game Four.

The News has Mike Babcock‘s reasoning for going with Abdelkader over Ville Leino or Aaron Downey. All three forwards were called up after the Grand Rapids Griffins were eliminated from the playoffs, along with defenseman Jakub Kindl and goalie Jimmy Howard.

“Because he’ll run over people,” Babcock said of Abdelkader. “We expect him to play hard like (Darren) Helm. He’s on the forecheck and he’s a physical guy. He scored 23 goals for them (Grand Rapids) this season and was one of their best players in the playoffs.”

Brian Rafalski and Kris Draper are doubtful for the game. No word from the Ducks on the status of James Wisniewski.

Red Wings – Blues Pregame Notes

The Red Wings look to bounce back from their awful loss to Nashville last Saturday. I never saw it so I’m going from others’ accounts and the final score in calling it awful, as far as I’m concerned it never happened.

Chris Osgood gets the start for Detroit. Former Wing Manny Legace isn’t even with the Blues anymore, he’ll be hanging out with AHL Peoria. I guess that means Chris Mason gets the start for St. Louis.

Aaron Downey makes his secon appearance of the season with Detroit, alongside fellow call-up Jonathan Ericsson. Ericsson takes Andreas Lilja‘s spot on defense while Lilja stays in Detroit nursing injuries suffered in Nashville.

Brett Lebda also returns to the Detroit lineup, taking Derek Meech‘s spot on the blueline.

Unlike the Coyotes, Islanders, Maple Leafs, and seemingly a slew of other teams, neither the Wings nor the Blues are expected to sit any players in anticipation of trades tonight.

Downey Returned to GR, Abdelkader Called Up

The Red Wings have announced another set of roster moves, sending Aaron Downey back to the Grand Rapids Griffins and calling up forward Justin Abdelkader.

Downey played last night against Dallas after having been called up earlier in the day along with Ville Leino. It was his first game of the season.

Abdelkader played two games with the Red Wings last season and spent the playoffs with the team’s black aces. He will make his season debut on Saturday in Washington – as will Leino – as the Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

Red Wings – Stars Pregame Notes

Aaron Downey returns to the Red Wings lineup tonight as Detroit hosts the Dallas Stars. Downey has spent the entire season thus far with the Grand Rapids Griffins but was called up with Ville Leino today when Brad Stuart was placed on the long-term IR.

Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom also return to the ice, having served their suspensions.

The Wings will be without Henrik Zetterberg, whose back spasms have continued. Downey takes his spot in the lineup instead of Derek Meech being shifted to forward again. Meech joins Leino as a healthy scratch.

Chris Osgood gets another start in the Detroit net.

Marty Turco will go for Dallas, who will be without Mark Parrish (flu) and Fabian Brunnstrom (AHL conditioning stint) in addition to long-term injuries Brenden Morrow and Sergei Zubov.

I’ll be missing the start of this one as I’ve got another 7:30 soccer game. I’ll catch up when I get back.

Stuart on IR, Leino and Downey Called Up

The Red Wings announced this morning that defenseman Brad Stuart has been placed on long-term injured reserve, meaning he will miss at least ten games.

Stuart was injured during the Wings’ matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes, suffering rib injuries after slamming head-first into the boards.

The Red Wings are opting not to replace Stuart on defense, instead adding some depth to the forward ranks by calling up Ville Leino and Aaron Downey from the Grand Rapids Griffins. Both players will be available for tonight’s matchup with the Dallas Stars.

A Real Hockey Game this Weekend: Grand Rapids vs. Quad City

I made it out to my first Grand Rapids Griffins game last night, making sure that the only hockey game I watch this weekend will be one with some meaning. I won’t pretend to know what’s happening with the Griffins this season but here are a few thoughts on the game against the Quad City Flames…

Grand Rapids played a lot like Detroit has this season. Seemingly little effort through the first 40 minutes only to turn it on for the third period and get the late win (this one in a shootout).

The game was very sloppy even compared to a bad Wings game. Former Wing Garret Stafford (now with the Dallas organization but assigned to Grand Rapids for a second year) had a horrible time holding the puck in at the point.

I have to wonder how much the ice conditions were affected by the extra intermission activities that you see in lower-tier leagues. The 17-minute intermission and two zambonis are supposed to be used to get the ice set for as long as possible before the start of the next period but when you use that time for other things you’re going to get bad ice.

The Griffins played a solid game defensively, they allowed a lot of shots but most of them were low-quality chances. Even the one goal against barely snuck through Daniel Larsson.

Larsson proved why he’s an AHL All-Star, stopping 34 shots and all three chances he faced in the shooutout.

Mattias Ritola has been labeled as “lazy” in the past and there were a few shifts last night where it showed. In the third period there was a chance for him to go to the front of the net but he stayed back in the corner, meaning he was out of position. He scored in the shootout, though, for a little bit of redemption. He also had an apparent goal in the second period that turned out to have gone off the post.

Ville Leino was the best skater on the ice. It looks like he might be having trouble in traffic but he was moving the puck well and getting to where he needed to be. He scored the Griffins’ only regulation goal by being in the right spot to put home a rebound chance on a power play. His shootout goal was beautiful.

Aaron Downey looked out of place for most of the game but it seemed like he was ready to drop the gloves with Kris Chucko. Chucko was running people and getting his elbows up all night. A third period elbow by Chucko that went ignored combined with a bad missed interference call on Quad City goalie Matt Keetley convinced me that AHL refs can be just as bad as NHL ones.

Malik also has some notes on the game.

My photos from the game have been posted to the multimedia section.

Conklin Leads Wings to Win in First Detroit Start

Backup goaltender Ty Conklin stopped 27 of 28 shots Monday night, leading the Detroit Red Wings to a 3-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes in his first regular season appearance with Detroit.

Only Joe Corvo’s slap shot from the slot 57 seconds into the second period got past Conklin, who signed with the Red Wings as a free agent over the summer.

Nicklas Lidstrom and Tomas Holmstrom had power play goals for Detroit while Henrik Zetterberg added an empty net goal with 16 seconds remaining in the game.

Lidstrom’s goal came 6:55 into the first on a slap shot from near the blue line to put the Wings on the board.

Holmstrom scored on a pretty passing play 5:04 into the second. Lidstrom moved the puck from the left point across the blue line to Brian Rafalski who immediately pushed it down low to Marian Hossa. Hossa one-timed a pass to the front of the net where Holmstrom redirected it past Carolina goalie Cam Ward.

Ward finished the night with 33 saves on 35 shots.

The two power play goals came on six Detroit chances with the extra attacker. Carolina was scoreless in four power play tries, with their lone goal coming while the teams skated four-on-four.

The Red Wings will be off until Thursday when they host the Vancouver Canucks.


The Red Wings will visit the White House on Tuesday afternoon to celebrate their 2008 Stanley Cup Championship. Though not currently with the Wings, Grand Rapids Griffins players Aaron Downey and Darren Helm will join their teammates from last spring’s playoff run.